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Usability Features to Request from EHR Vendors


From tools to help report on quality measures to automatic matching of diagnosis codes, practices should speak up to improve EHR usability.

What makes an EHR usable is its ability to carry out the task of managing information in a functional manner, says Derek Kosiorek, principal consultant with the Medical Group Management Association's Healthcare Consulting Group. Still, many practices are using EHRs to simply emulate what paper charts used to do - which is create documentation about patient visits. What practices haven't done is think about ways to use the EHR to improve the flow of patient information throughout the office, he adds.

For example, it would be helpful for practices - especially those that need to report on quality measures to private payers or CMS - to easily analyze data, such as blood sugar or blood pressure levels, within the EHR. Kosiorek says that vendors need to focus on creating fields to capture this information instead of leaving clinicians to type this information into a free-text field within the EHR.

He also advocates for EHRs to facilitate the matching of diagnosis codes. Otherwise, billers need to interpret that information and then manually update it in the EHR after the patient's visit. What practices need is an EHR that matches diagnosis codes automatically, Kosiorek says.

Practices should also be looking to their EHR vendor to provide a direct interface from their insurance company into the EHR to determine if patients are eligible for insurance. For example, says Kosiorek, a "one click" button that verifies eligibility would be a huge time saver. Easy access to information about deductibles within the EHR would also helpful, he adds.

While some EHRS are "really great" in terms of being usable by clinicians and administrative staff, others are "so clunky," says Kosiorek. What puts an EHR in the first of those two categories is paying attention to the number of clicks it takes to either retrieve information or accomplish tasks within the system. "Nothing kills an EHR's credibility more than when it's slow," he adds.

Some practices make the mistake of focusing just on the clinician's experience with the EHR, notes Kosiorek. That's why he advises that practices incorporate the feedback of administrative staff when trying to improve the EHR's usability. This is a great opportunity to "see how their [lives are] are effected by the EHR."

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